Puns, or “Peculiar Pragmatic Post Portrays Powerful Paronomasia Pretty Proficiently”

SAY THAT FIVE TIMES FAST!!

Okay fine so there wasn’t a pun in the title. But it’s the longest alliteration I’ve made yet.

It’s the longest P I’ve ever had.

According to Wikipedia, there are seven types of paronomasia, or puns: Homophonic, Homographic, Homonymic, Compound, Recursive, Visual/Graphological and Morphological. The definition of a pun is a word, phrase or sentence that can be interpreted in multiple ways, due to multiple definitions of said word, phrase or sentence, cultural references, inside jokes or sentence structure.

WARNING
This post might be a little dry and/or advanced, so I apologise. I just really love puns, etymology and linguistics. I wanted to do a little educational post, so that I myself can understand puns a little better and also to show off my punning skills. Puns are my best and most lethal asset I have in my repertoire of joking skills.

“Do your best” and “Do your worst” mean the same thing.

I really like puns because most of the time they’re ridiculous and almost always get a laugh, snort or at least an eye-roll from the people who get it. They’re the easiest one-liners to remember, making them flexible by throwing one related to the current situation, or as a self-contained joke. I also like the fact that they require a large vocabulary to understand, allowing me to filter people who are on the same frequency as me.

Puns are usually how I make and connect with new friends. If you get my puns, I’ll like you and I’ll focus more on our friendship. If you can banter with me, I’ll love you.

I especially love boxing with someone, throwing punches at each other.

There may be seven types of puns, but I want to discuss what I think makes a pun funny. I’m going to classify them in four groups: Poor Puns, Partial Puns, Perfect Puns and Polysemantic Puns. But first, I’ll summarise the seven types, so that you, the reader, can have an easy reference without having to actually flip to Wikipedia. I’ll also add an original example of each type of these seven puns.

Homophonic
Homophonic puns (aka polyptotons) are words that have similar sounds or pronunciations, but have different meanings, like “scent” and “sent”. Also, any pun that results due to speaking a word with a different accent (and thus rendering the sound of the word a little differently) are always homophonic.

When I was born, my parents gave me a pair of denim pants that they had made together when they first met. I inherited their jeans.

Homographic
Homographic puns are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings or sounds, such as “read” (as a verb) and “read” (as simple past tense).

I gave my girlfriend a ring.

Homonymic
Homonymic puns are a combination of homophonic and homographic puns. These are the most common types of puns I use because the parallels of meaning and spelling make me feel clever.

I cried when I found out my macaroni had expired. It pasta way.

Compound
Compound puns are are sentences with multiple puns in them. I’m not able to make these often, but this I get the highest “high” from successfully making an original pun of this nature.

Never scam in the jungle; cheetahs are always spotted.

Recursive
A recursive pun is one that requires understanding of an element of the first part to appreciate the second part of the pun.

Fourth of May is International Star Wars Day. May the Fourth be with you.

Graphological
Graphological puns, or visual puns, are puns that are made up of pictures or symbols, rather than words. This is most common in cartoon strips, especially political ones, when the illustrator wants to hint at a subtle second meaning. This also applies to non-phonetic languages, like Chinese. The pun is made by exploiting similar shapes of characters, even if the sounds are different.

Okay I’m too lazy to make a visual pun, but I’ll paint you a picture. Imagine a rabbit with a halo standing in front of a set of gates. That’s Saint Peter.

Morphological
Morphological puns play on word combinations, grammar, idioms and punctuation to show multiple interpretations of a sentence or phrase. I’ll admit it took me a while to understand what morphological puns were, but now that I do, several pop into mind.

I asked this illusionist how he was able to stop producing all his bodily fluids. He told me that a good magician never reveals his secretions.

So what makes a pun funny? I think that the level of funniness scales with the level of cleverness, complexity and clarity of the pun.

Poor Puns are the least funny. This pun is made by awkwardly forcing words together, or making an obvious pun. It’s only a pun purely because the sentence could be interpreted two ways, but this has no cleverness and so lacks humor.

People who pun are punks.

*shudder*

Partial Puns are made when a sentence has two meanings, but the second meaning doesn’t apply to the context. This breaks the flow and aesthetics of a pun. This might be a little funny but a still awkward. Homophonic and homographic puns generally fall in this area.

Sex is pants down the best thing in the world.

Perfect Puns are the opposite of Partial Puns and are made when the the pun flows, is aesthetically pleasing and is quite ingenious. This is marked by the word having the same meaning, spelling, pronunciation and fits perfectly with the sentence without having any awkwardness.

Hey babe, are you tied up tonight or would you like to be?

Okay I meant awkwardness due to sentence structure, not from the content. Perfect puns are mostly derived from idioms, famous sayings and quotes, so homonymic, recursive and morphological puns generally fall into this category.

Polysemantic Puns are puns that have three or more interpretations. This group is not mutually exclusive to the previous three, although the previous three are mutually exclusive among themselves. This is a special category of puns which gets it’s humor from the sheer number of interpretations the phrase or sentence could have, regardless of whether each interpretation is humorous or not. Usually this stems from any combination pun types together with inside jokes, cultural references and literary tools. It’s not necessarily the funniest, but it’s the punniest.

My puns are like the girls I chase; they’re just plain hard to get.

It’s a little difficult to spot more than two meanings from a pun, since that’s the most common way a pun is spun. I’ll explain this one, just to show off.

The first two meanings are literal references, using the word “hard” as the connection to show the parallels. It’s hard for me to successfully ask a girl out and my puns are difficult to understand. The third meaning is a little subtle, using the word “plain”, which is a homophone of “playing” and references the phrase “playing hard to get”.

There were a couple of theories I read as to why people groan when puns are made. First is obviously because a poor pun was made; the awkwardness and obviousness of the pun makes people groan in pain. The second was because the audience is jealous; they get “why-didn’t-I-think-of-that” moments and they groan with envy.

Anyone who is with me can safely assume that all my jokes are Punintentional.

-Jace

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